Today we drove up to West Stow Anglo Saxon Village, which is just outside Bury St Edmunds – their website is www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk/weststow
The Anglo Saxon village is set in the West Stow country park which is owned by Bury St Edmunds District Council. The country park is along the banks of the River Lark. – which is such a lyrical name for a river. It is set in beautiful Suffolk countryside, and there are lots of gentle walks that will suit the whole family. There’s also an adventure playgound with lots of slides and swings, and there are picnic tables alongside.
The little village that we see today is a recreation of the village that was in existence from about AD420.
There are small houses and halls built on to the footprint of the archaaelogical remains that have been found on the site since archaeologists first started working there in 1965. The idea is that the houses act as an on going experiment to find out how the Anglo Saxon’s built and lived in their homes. At certain times of the year, Anglo Saxon re-inactors recreate the Anglo Saxon way of life. They live in the houses, cooking and sleeping there and carrying out Anglo Saxon crafts – for instance weaving and pottery.
There is also a fascinating museum full of Anglo Saxon artefacts that have been found in the area. The objects come from both West Stow and other nearby Anglo Saxon settlements. There are some wonderful necklaces that wouldn’t look out of place on the high street today. There are also weapons and examples of house hold goods. The museum really dispels the myth that these were the “dark ages”. The exhibition links all the Anglo Saxon sites across East Anglia. and makes you realise how much the people travelled and how the area was relatively well populated. At the end of the exhibition there is a simple replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet for children to try on.
After looking round the museum there is a light and airy tea room that has wonderful views across the site. There’s also a gift shop for those of you who like to buy a memento.
Once you have been to West Stow, you might like to find our more about the Anglo Saxons and their way of life. One of the most important sites is Sutton Hoo, which is owned by the National Trust – www.nationaltrust.org.uk, and if you are in Ipswich you could visit the Ipswich Museum which has an interesting display about Anglo Saxon life in Ipswich: www.ipswich.gov.uk